Okay, so I have the kid off to bed, have a few Shopsy’s dogs lined up, pull a Sleeman’s out of the fridge (wha? No MGD? I know…) and get ready to sit down to watch the game when I hear that Bargnani is starting at centre, which kickstarts a “Clouseau-esque” series of pratfalls that includes me almost dropping my dinner and spraying beer across the room. WHA? So just to make sure, I put down my bevarage and look at the screen and yes, I see a photo of Bargnani starting at centre. I do a quick series of events in my head, just to double check that this is the same second year player currently struggling as badly as a player can struggle and that the Raptors are playing AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBRE TEAM and yes, I am right again. So I start trying to figure out the logic behind it. I mean, Sam said in an interview the other day that it wasn’t up to him to light a fire under Bargnani, that it was up to Bargnani to do that, so by starting him ahead of Rasho at centre against one of the best teams in the league, he couldn’t have been trying to light a fire under Bargnani, because that would make him out to be a liar. Okay, so then he must think that the smart move, the STRATEGIC move is to put the player who is struggling the most, who is at possibly the lowest point in his career against a team that can get up and down the court in a flash and move the ball around the floor like the Montreal Canadiens used to move the puck on a power play in the late 70s. Pass, pass, pass, pass, score. I’ve got it, the STRATEGIC move is to put a guy who on his best days has problems defending slow teams into the starting lineup, to reward his poor play of late. But again, Sam isn’t trying to light a fire under him, because he said it wasn’t up to him.
So let’s do a little PTI “Role Play.” “Hi, I’m Rasho Nesterovic. I’ve been playing a pretty good centre for the Toronto Raptors, especially on the defensive end, where I have been boxing guys out. My minutes in the past few games haven’t been huge, but when I have been on the floor, I have been pretty solid. I’m looking forward to playing against the Suns, because I think I can help shut down Amare Stoudemire with my strong positional play. When I get to the arena, Sam Mitchell tells me that the kid who is struggling is going to be starting ahead of me. I once again question my coach and then decide that if presented with the opportunity, I will reach into his chest, pull out his heart and eat it in front of him.” Okay, well maybe he wouldn’t say the last part, but seriously, if you’re Rasho, aren’t you wondering what the hell is going on? Here’s the thing too, it’s not like he just didn’t start, he was a DNP-CD. Coach’s Decision! I thought that I had missed an injury report, that something had happened to Rasho on the way from the hotel, like he had tripped and smacked his head, but no, apparently that happened to Sam.
I thought I was going to be proven wrong, as right off the bat, Bargnani took the ball to the rack and threw down for 2. For a brief second, I thought, “Well I’ll be damned, maybe Sam knows what he is doing. Maybe they got through to him.” But five seconds later, Marion walked past Bargnani at the other end of the court and I thought, “Nope. Where’s my beer?” It’s not even that Bargnani had a bad night, because he didn’t. 13 points on 6-13 from the floor in just over 30 minutes isn’t bad. But let’s also remember that this is Phoenix and they don’t play D, they just let you take a shot so they can get the ball back. The just want to score on you again. I just don’t agree with the thought process (if there was one). How does Rasho not see the floor at all? Was he injured? He was listed as a DNP-CD. If you wanted Bargnani to get some minutes, wouldn’t you have done it against the Clippers, the Blazers or the Sonics? Why would you wait until tonight? Sorry, just thoroughly confused.
Anyway, it’s not like that played a big role in the Raps losing tonight. The Suns are a better team and as I said in the preview, this was a game that the Suns should walk into thinking they would win easily. The Raptors have been having trouble defensively lately and this was probably the worst team they could have faced at the moment. Watching the Suns move the ball around so quickly, having the whole team touch the ball before it went in was beautiful and painful to watch at the same time.
Let’s get right to Chris Bosh’s performance. Remember how I was saying that Bosh could be such a better player if he attacked and looked to draw some more fouls? Well, tonight was a perfect example of what I was talking about. Bosh was 10-20 from the field, with a lot of those coming from close range, but where he really made his game was picking up 20 additional points from the line, going 20-22. THAT’S how you play when you have the kind of talent he does. Play with a little bit of aggression. If you get knocked down a couple of times, so what, you get the hell back up and do it again. 20 points with the clock not moving. Now THAT’S what I am talking about. If Bosh continues to attack like that, he is going to create a little more fear in the competition, which works out well for everyone.
Remember when Jamario Moon was logging 40 minutes per game? Tonight, 13 minutes, 1-2 from the floor. Goodnight Moon, Sam doesn’t have any use for you tonight, because apparently we have other guys who are more capable of stopping the Suns on D.
As hot as Jason Kapono has been lately, my God did he look like he was shooting with a medicine ball tonight. Ugh. 3-11 and 0-4 from 3 point range. It wasn’t pretty. I think he was showing a little bit of exhaustion, because he wasn’t getting his legs into anything and it looked like he could barely lift his arms.
The good part of the night was having Colangelo on the mic for the entire first quarter. You usually don’t get GMs on the mic for that long and you especially don’t get them to be as candid as Colangelo was. It was good hearing that they plan on making every attempt at keeping Jose here, but I suppose after the recent events with TJ, that was an easier thing to say than it was a few months ago. But it was cool to hear him say things like he didn’t really expect Delfino’s D to be as good as it has (hey boss, neither did we) and it was also interesting to hear him talk about the level of confidence in different players’ games. It would be great if they could have Colangelo on maybe once a month. I’m not saying that he would have to be on for the whole quarter, but it is nice to have that additional insight.
Okay, moving on to Chuck and Leo. Guys, we know that Nash is Canadian and that you try to promote him as much as possible and that he is good for ratings, but enough already. The way the broadcast goes on when the Raptors play the Suns borders on ridiculous. The way they talk about Nash, you would think that he can also cure cancer and solve the wars of the world with a couple of crisp passes. I mean, how many shots did we see of him lying on his back on the bench, doing stretches? Then we have to hear about how he really does everything possible to keep his back loose so he can play to his peak. Really? Wow. Amazing. Nash is brilliant because he stays loose during games instead of cramping up and hobbling off the court. Wow. Nash makes a nice pass? Let’s replay it from three different angles and then show a closeup on him putting his hair behind his ears while a play is going on at the other end of the court. I’m all for supporting a Canadian guy, but these guys have total man-crushes on Nash and for me it just takes away so much of the game. Yes, Nash is good. Yes, he will be going to the hall some day. Yes, he is the best player this country has ever produced. Yes, he is vital to the success of the Suns. Enough already.
Okay, not much else to say on this game, ended up pretty much how I expected. The better team won and did it by simply not worrying about D and just “running” their game.